Southeast Valley: First four-year class graduates

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson Noah Jepson, a 2018 graduate of Southeast Valley High School delivers a rose to his mother, Angie Jepson while his father, Troy Jepson looks on.

GOWRIE – “What feels like the end is often the beginning.”

That was the motto for the 2018 graduating class of Southeast Valley High School that took the stage Sunday to receive their diplomas in the packed high school gym.

The Prairie Valley and Southeast Webster-Grand districts came together in 2015 to form the Southeast Valley High School. The graduating class of 2018 is the first four year class of that merger.

Tessa Berg was one of the three commencement speakers and she not only gave her overview of their senior year with a countdown, but also reflected on the beginning of their freshman year at the new Southeast Valley High School.

“What is crazy to think is that four years ago, many of us classmates didn’t even know each other,” said Berg. “We were nervous little freshmen that wanted nothing to do with the other kids from the other side of the district. But, just like that, in no time at all, we found new friends and by the end of the year, you realized that joining wasn’t all that bad. I have a lot of friends that I never would have had we never joined.”

- Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson Chelsea Mitchell and Halle Grimm pose for a selfie prior to their graduation at Southeast Valley High School in Gowrie on Sunday.

Fellow senior Carson Shipley’s speech focused on the four years she has spent at Southeast Valley. She said that although many of the experiences the class of 2018 had differed, they also shared a lot of those same events together.

“Today, I stand here with the first class to have finished all four years of high school at Southeast Valley,” she said. ”These four years have been interesting to say the least. Our first year consisted of many new beginnings with many of us meeting for the first time. At the beginning, a lot of us didn’t like it, but now I wouldn’t want it any other way. I have sisters that I have made here and I am going to miss them so much. It’s great we joined, I think.”

Southeast Valley High School Principal Kerry Ketcham and Superintendent Brian Johnson have been with Southeast Valley one and two years, respectively. Both agreed that although they came in on the backside of the merger between the schools, they think the joint agreement is working out.

“From my point of view, it has gone very, very well,” said Johnson. “I don’t know which student is a PV kid and which ones a SWG kid. To us, they’re Jaguars.”

Ketcham agreed.

- Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson Bethany Rippentrop, Southeast Valley High School social studies instructor helps graduate Benjamin Peterson get ready for commencement on Sunday.

“For us coming in afterwards, they are Southeast Valley kids to us,” said Ketcham.

Ketcham said the class of 2018 seniors earned about $95,000 in scholarships.

“We have one student who has already gone off to a four-year school, that came back for graduation and we have another student who graduated from Iowa Central two weeks ago and came back for graduation here. So this is an incredible class,” said Ketcham.

Ebony Scott also took the stage to speak to her fellow classmates. Scott said she has faced some adversity in her life, but each time, decided to hold her head high and choose a better direction.

From accepting a life in the foster care system, to being adopted, to accepting sports weren’t going to be a part of her high school career, Scott spoke of the fact that life doesn’t always go as planned and sometimes it takes people in a different direction and it shows them what they are meant to do.

- Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson Lisa Peterson, a senior class advisor at Southeast Valley High School lines seniors up for their class photo for the last time in her teaching career. Peterson will retire after 34 years of teaching.

“There’s a difference between giving up and accepting reality,” Scott said. “I accepted the reality to change my plans and developed. Just like what our class motto says ‘what feels like the end is often the beginning.'”

- Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson Thomas Lennon plays the drum set during his graduation at Southeast Valley High School in Gowrie. Lennon and his bandmates played “How Far I’ll Go” during commencement.